Therapist tackles school issues from all angles
HOMETOWN: Highland Park
WORDS TO LIVE BY: “I have such a range of experience that I know what is coming next when parents are crying that their seventh-grader won’t make it through high school, or agonizing that a high school junior won’t get into college.”
Updated: May 23, 2013 4:56PM
HIGHLAND PARK — Highland Park resident Sheryl Roessler started her career as a special education teacher working with behavior-disordered students.
But her inner passion led her in another direction as an educational therapist.
Q. You seem to be part teacher and part family therapist. Is that an accurate description?
A. This is fairly accurate as I am generally seeing students in their homes, and work with them as part of a family system. As I work with the student to become more accountable and self-confident, I am also giving guidance and support to the parents. Often, I am part of a team, working with outside therapists and school personnel. This is slightly different with college students, as I “coach” them from afar, all the while, touching base with the parents.
Q. Why do families seek out the help of an educational therapist?
A. Most often the child is experiencing difficulty managing their academic life. The reasons may include ADHD, anxiety, depression, a learning disability, motivational or executive functioning issues. This can show up as poor grades, missing assignments, struggles to complete work, arguments about homework, missing classes or frequently being “sick”. The issues then compound and can lead to friction in the family system. Therapists and/or school support alone may not be enough to make a positive change.
Q. Bad grades can be a source of family conflict. Does the conflict itself contribute to poor performance? How do you sort that out?
A. About 90 percent of the time, poor grades are the source of the conflict. Occasionally, family issues create a cycle of poor grades, as this is one of the only ways a student can exert control in a “chaotic” family system. When concentration is on the student, it takes the attention from the other issues that may be occurring. Usually, this is very apparent, and I am able to tease that out quickly and suggest solutions.
Q. You work with students as young as third grade, but also young adults of college age. Are college-aged students more accepting of help than, say, younger teens?
A. College students are generally more accepting of the help than younger teens, as they are better able to be accountable for their own actions, and are capable of seeing the big picture. It actually depends upon the individual student’s maturity level. This being said, younger students often feel a sense of relief, having someone other than a parent step in and support them academically as well as emotionally.~.